Covid-19 has infected more than 370M people and killed over 5.6M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announced a vaccine mandate for federal workers in October on the eve of the election, and then last month both Canada and the US imposed one for cross-border truckers.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announced a vaccine mandate for federal workers in October on the eve of the election, and then last month both Canada and the US imposed one for cross-border truckers. (Reuters)

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Trucks roll into Canadian capital to protest vaccine mandates

Trucks have rolled into Canada's capital Ottawa to stage what police say will be a massive protest against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Covid-19 vaccine mandates in front of parliament on a frigid winter day.

The so-called "Freedom Convoy" - coming from east and west - started out as a rally against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers but has turned into a demonstration against government overreach during the pandemic with a strong anti-vaccination streak.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) on Friday that some of the protesters have expressed "flagrant extremism", including calling for the violent overthrow of the government.

On Saturday the CBC said Trudeau and his family have left the home where they live in downtown Ottawa due to security concerns and he is working from another location. His office would not confirm the report.

Portugal grapples with in-person voting by people with Covid

Portuguese election organisers are taking extra safety precautions after the government decided to allow voters who are infected with the coronavirus to leave isolation and cast ballots in person along with everyone else.

With around a tenth of Portugal's 10 million-strong population now thought to be isolating due to Covid-19, the government decided last week to lift restrictions for Sunday's vote.

Authorities have asked those with Covid to vote between 6:00 and 7:00 pm, but the time recommendation is not mandatory. There will be no designated areas for infected voters.

Hungary's daily cases could reach 30,000

Hungary's daily tally of new Covid-19 cases could reach 30,000 in the next one to two weeks, up from about 20,000 this week, a government minister has said.

Miklos Kasler, minister for human resources, blamed the Omicron variant for the rise. In a Facebook video, he said the variant was causing less severe illness, but the third of Hungarians not vaccinated were at higher risk.

Just over 6 million of Hungary's 10 million people have received at least two shots, and nearly 3.6 million have also received a booster, but the country's vaccination rate lags western European levels.

Australia flies medical team to Covid-hit Solomons

Australia has flown a small team of emergency medical specialists to Honiara after the Solomon Islands requested help in battling a worsening outbreak of Covid-19.

Australian officials said the team of eight experts landed in the capital alongside a shipment of more than 37,000 vaccine doses.

"The multi-disciplinary team includes specialists in emergency medicine, infectious disease control, logistics and occupational therapy," the foreign affairs department said in a statement.

Until last week, the nation of 700,000 had recorded no deaths and just 31 infections but confirmed cases climbed to nearly 900 with five deaths.

China reports jump in cases among Olympics attendees

Daily Covid-19 infections among athletes and team officials at the Beijing Winter Olympics have jumped to 19 from two a day earlier, as Games organisers warned of more cases in coming days.

Including the athletes and officials, 36 Games-related personnel were found to be infected - 29 when they arrived at the Beijing airport and seven already in the "closed loop" bubble that separates event personnel from the public, the organising committee said in a statement.

"We are now just going through the peak period of people arriving in China and therefore we expect to see the highest numbers at this stage," the Games' medical chief, Brian McCloskey, told a news conference.

Britain sees 296 more fatalities

Britain has reported a further 72,727 cases of Covid-19 and 296 more deaths, government statistics showed.

Cases are down 3.6 percent over the last seven days compared with the week before, while deaths are down 3.2 percent over the same seven-day period.

Russia logs record daily cases

Russia reported more than 100,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time as the country weathers a surge of infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

A government Covid-19 portal registered 113,122 new cases over 24 hours, nearly double the number of daily infections just a week ago and a record high for the ninth consecutive day.

Russia's coronavirus task force said that 668 deaths had been confirmed in the past 24 hours.

Russia's government figures have reported 330,111 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic - the highest death toll in Europe.

However those figures are contradicted by statistics agency Rosstat, which counts Covid deaths under a broader definition and says the overall death toll is close to double the official number.

Omicron drives US deaths higher than in fall's Delta wave

Omicron, the highly contagious coronavirus variant sweeping across the US, is driving the daily American death toll higher than during last fall's Delta wave, with deaths likely to keep rising for days or even weeks.

The seven-day rolling average for daily Covid-19 deaths in the US has been climbing since mid-November, reaching 2,267 on Thursday and surpassing a September peak of 2,100 when Delta was the dominant variant.

Now, Omicron is estimated to account for nearly all the virus circulating in the nation. Although it causes less severe disease for most people, the fact that it is more transmissible means more people are falling ill and dying.

“Omicron will push us over a million deaths,” said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine.

The average daily death toll is now at the same level as last February, when the country was slowly coming off its all-time high of 3,300 a day.

New Zealand PM Ardern in self-isolation after exposure to positive case

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has gone into self-isolation until Tuesday after being deemed a close contact of a person who tested positive for Covid-19.

The exposure took place on Jan 22 during a flight to Auckland from the town of Kerikeri, the government said, adding that the result of whole genome sequencing was expected the following day.

That would show if the infection was caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, it said.

Ardern, who is asymptomatic, is feeling well, the statement added. She will be tested on Sunday and is in isolation in line with the health ministry's directives.

The governor-general and members of her staff, who were also on board the flight, are following the same isolation procedure. 

Ukraine reports new record of daily Covid-19 cases

Ukraine has registered a record daily high of 37,351 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours. The previous high of 34,408 cases was a day earlier.

Data from the health ministry showed 149 new related deaths, putting the total death toll above 100,000.

Ukraine's tally of infections in the pandemic stands at 4.02 million, with 100,031 deaths.

Third Covid wave looms in Indonesia as Omicron spreads

Indonesia is bracing for a third wave of Covid-19 infections as the highly transmissible Omicron variant drives a surge in new cases, health authorities and experts said.

The country reported 9,905 new infections and seven deaths in the latest 24-hour period. It was the highest daily caseload since August last year when the country was struggling to contain a Delta-driven wave.

Indonesia had recovered from last year's spike in cases and deaths that was among the worst in the region, and daily infections had fallen to about 200 by December.

But cases are rising again just weeks after the country reported its first local Omicron case.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the next few months will be critical because Omicron is spreading “rapidly and massively."

Balkans see highest Covid deaths per 100,000 globally

Balkan countries are placed among the top 10 in Covid-19 fatalities per 100,000 people, according to the data-tracking Johns Hopkins University.

The region also continues to register a record number of the increased number of novel coronavirus cases.

With 630.38 deaths per million, Peru tops the list, followed by Bulgaria with 473.31, Bosnia and Herzegovina with 431.48, Hungary 421.20, Montenegro 408.43, and North Macedonia 398.95, Croatia 334.97 fatalities.

Canada masses security amid anti-vaccine protests

Police in Canada’s capital have called in reinforcements as a planned anti-vaccine mandate protest began to swell in numbers.

Several thousand people are expected in Ottawa as part of a group demanding an end to vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions. Some of the group’s leaders are calling for a peaceful event, but statements from some associated with the group have included threats of violence.

Ottawa police are working with national security agencies to identify any potential threats to public safety, Chief Peter Sloly said during a press briefing.

Easier to produce Covid vaccine shows promise in trials - study

A Covid-19 vaccine that can be produced locally in low- and middle-income countries is yielding promising results in early clinical trials, researchers say.

The NDV-HXP-S vaccine, developed at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, uses an engineered version of the harmless Newcastle disease virus studded with coronavirus spike proteins to teach the immune system to recognize and attack the virus that causes Covid.

Using blood samples from trial participants, researchers found that NDV-HXP-S induces proportionally more antibodies that can neutralize the virus and fewer non-neutralizing antibodies than the current mRNA vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, they reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies